Will I find work in Thailand?

Is there a definitive answer to this incredibly common question?

Will I find work in Thailand? Of all the questions I get sent to me through the ajarn.com contact form, this question is easily the most common.

I've decided to do something I've been meaning to do for a long, long time and that is to provide hopefully the definitive answer to this question. The problem is that the definitive answer probably doesn't exist but at least I'll be able to guide teachers to this page in the hope that a ‘stock answer' is better than no answer at all.

OK, let's begin with the main reasons why teachers ask if they will find work in Thailand.

1) The teacher lacks a degree.
2) The teacher is not a native speaker of English.
3) The teacher has no teaching experience to speak of.
4) The teacher considers himself / herself to be ‘too old' or in some cases ‘too young'
5) The teacher considers himself / herself to be at a disadvantage when it comes to skin color and/or appearance.

I think I've covered the main five reasons there.

I wish I could look at the five possible scenarios above and give everyone a straight "yes, you will" or "no, you won't" answer. But unfortunately it's nowhere near that straightforward.

Let me pull no punches here. Here's how it is and I think most long-term Thailand teachers, having spent a good few years in the system, would probably agree with me.

1) Teachers with degrees will find work much easier than those without degrees (but that's not to say finding work without a degree is impossible) A few years back I would have said degreed teachers will find work easier, instead of ‘much easier' but there's no doubt that things have become tougher for those who lack the required qualifications.

2) English native speakers will generally find work easier than non-native speakers but the key word is ‘generally'. Much depends on where you apply to for work. Many schools out in the rural areas gave up trying to hire native English speakers long ago. They simply can't or won't pay enough so they have to settle for ‘second best' (their words, not mine) And in many cases, a good European non-native speaker will be considered for a job on a par with a native speaker anyway.

3) Teachers with experience will generally find it easier to get work than those without. There's that key word ‘generally' again. If you're wondering why I'm not saying whether it's ‘much easier' or ‘a little easier' it's because I haven't got the first clue. No one has. It's all just based on opinion and supposition.

4) and 5) you could bundle together quite easily. Appearances and ‘packaging' count for almost everything in Thailand. It's no good pretending that ageism and racism don't exist because they quite clearly do! however not in every school thankfully. So to summarize, younger teachers generally find it easier to get teaching work than older teachers and I'll stick my neck out and say white teachers find it much easier to secure teaching positions than black teachers.

Let me reiterate that not for one moment does this mean that a black or old or inexperienced teacher won't find work. Period. I've worked with black teachers who have been easily the most popular teacher in the school and years ago, I worked with a 75-year old American guy, who not only got more student requests than everyone else but was still buzzing with energy at the end of an 8-hour teaching day while us ‘youngsters' were slumped over our desks in a corner of the teachers room.

Once again it's about appearance, ‘packaging' and the image you project. There are 30-year olds who look forty and 60-year olds who would pass for fifty. It's only a number!

But what makes all of the above almost completely irrelevant is this - the fact that ONLY YOU KNOW YOU! This is the point that the majority of people miss when they e-mail me to ask the question ‘"will I find teaching work in Thailand?"

To use one of my father's favorite expressions - "are you the kind of guy who could fall off a department store roof and land in a new suit?" Are you the kind of guy who can land in a strange country and within 48 hours, you've made three good contacts in local pubs and restaurants and got half a dozen good job interviews lined up? People who tackle what life throws at them in this manner are all out there. We've all met them.

Do you perform well at job interviews?
Are you good at making a first impression?
Do you get on well with people?
Are you a good team player?
Do you have a good sense of humor and a go-with-the-flow personality?
Do you have some savings behind you?
Is your resume as professional as it could be?

I could go on and list hundreds of these questions. The more of them that you can answer ‘yes' to, the more successful you will be in finding your dream teaching job in Thailand. But only you truly know the answers to these questions.

Is there anything I've missed out here?


I'd love to teach English to Thai children. However, I don't have a degree. I do however speak fluent English and have a reasonable school and college education. I'm now over 50 and have worked in several occupations and was self-employed for 6 years. I really would love to work in Thailand as my girlfriend is here and a large proportion of my Thai friends are here too.

By Steven Goodall, Ayutthaya, Thailand (1 year ago)

Hi, was wondering, even with taking any of the teaching courses, how do you teach English in Thailand without know how to speak Thai??? Aslo, I am a marine cook by trade, any chances there in work situations? Thanks P.S. Been to Thailand 3 times, Chaing Mai in the 90's, Phuket, Canchanaburi, Bangkok, etc. Loved it and would like to retire and work a bit there. I am 57 going on 58 yrs. old.

By Karen Rivers, Ontario, Canaada (1 year ago)

I am a non native English speaker. I am a fluent speaker though and I do get mistaken for being a NES by those who do not know me. I am having a hard time finding a job. I know what I am capable of and I can say yes to most of your questions above, but it is not as easy for non natives as it is for natives. So heads up for non natives seeking a teaching job in Thailand, I guess patience and faith is key here!

By Diana, Phuket (2 years ago)

Definitely having worked at one of the institutions that has a banner on the front page here, I can say the best teachers are 'Kosarn' style. Perhaps play UNO or Bingo with students (not knowing much about phonics or about how to incorporate the material into relevant worksheets or games).

Serious teachers tend to find it hardest - especially with the specialised place I've been working for six years.

And let's not overestimate our value.... once even the most headhunted teacher turns 50 they will find it impossible to move on without some very seriously impressive paperwork behind them.
Thai's firmly believe that teachers only have a short useful shelflife. I was told at a meeting last year 'after 3 or 4 years, they stop developing'. I did ask if it was possibly because, for ESL, you can learn more than enough great songs, games and activities to fill years of teaching.

By Ben, Bangna (2 years ago)

"But it doesn't mean that they are good teachers..."

What defines 'a good teacher'?

A good teacher to a private school/mall ed center is one who attracts more students to enroll.
Is that YOUR definition of a good teacher?

A good teacher to all the other schools is someone who's friendly, won't whine about gate duties and who shows up every day.
Is that YOUR definition of a good teacher?

A good teacher to students is the guy who is the most fun and entertaining for the duration of the period that he is teaching.
Is that YOUR definition of a good teacher?

A good teacher to me is someone who has a good understanding of everything that is is expected of him from his employers.
Is that YOUR definition of a good teacher?

Now... look at all the qualities in the above scenarios... you attract more business... you are affable, reliable and you don't gripe about stuff... you are entertaining and fun to be with in the classroom... you understand what is expected from you...

Now - if you are all of these things AND you can 'teach' English, then you're a f*ck&%g genius and you'll already be earning a pot of gold.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (2 years ago)

Thanks for the very useful information.

By Conchi, Spain, España (3 years ago)

All true and well said! Sure it's easier for the 'right' teacher: Caucasian, degree, young, pretty, teaching experience. But it doesn't mean that they are good teachers, and it's all about getting your foot in the door and the right attitude. But as you noted, be sure to have a bit of savings behind you if you don't fit this mould, as it may take a little longer to get that job. And be flexible on where you are prepared to teach.

By Rosanne, Samui (4 years ago)

Thanks, but when you talk about 'some savings', how much do you mean?

By Paul, uk (4 years ago)

Thanks for such honesty

By Raf, (4 years ago)

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